More sports grace London Olympic venues
London’s Olympic venues have played host to six more sporting events, as preparations continue for next year’s Olympic Games. The handball, table tennis, fencing, boxing, judo and taekwondo events all formed part of the London Prepares series, which is bringing world-class sport to the British capital’s Olympic venues in the build-up to London 2012.
The events form an integral part of the London 2012 Organising Committee’s (LOCOG’s) preparations for the Games, enabling it to test vital Games-time operations, including competition equipment, scoreboards, results services, workforce and officials.
The London Handball Cup saw six top women’s teams battle it out over five days of competition in the Olympic Park’s newly-built Handball Arena. Austria took the gold medal after defeating Poland 23-22 in a closely fought final, while Angola took the bronze medal with a 29-24 win over China.
Over 10,000 tickets for the event were given out to local schools, colleges and residents, creating a superb atmosphere in the arena, which will be used as a multi-use venue after the Games.
“It is great to see competitive action in the Handball Arena,” said David Luckes, Head of Sport Competition at LOCOG. “The test event has run very smoothly and the atmosphere generated by the local crowd has been electric. Not only have we been able to test our operations, this has also been a great chance to showcase handball to a wider audience.”
Herbert Müller, coach of the winning Austrian team, was also impressed with the event. “It was a great honour to play at this tournament and I really like the Olympic Handball Arena, especially the multi-coloured seats,” he said. “The organisation was perfect and the whole Austrian team really enjoyed it.”
Elsewhere, London’s ExCeL exhibition centre opened its doors to a variety of sports as it played host to fencing, table tennis, boxing, judo and taekwondo events. The London Boxing International Invitational saw both male and female competitors taking part in four days of competition from 24-27 November, while the London International Invitational Men's Foil competition took place from 26-27 November.
“It was great competing in the venue that the Olympic Games will be held at next year,” said American fencer Gerek Meinhardt, who took gold in the individual foil event. “It was really amazing motivation seeing the facilities and getting familiar with some of the procedures that will take place if I qualify for the Games.”
The 2011 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Pro Tour Grand Finals were also held at ExCeL from 24-27 November, with the world's best players competing for the Pro Tour title.
“The ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals is always the yearly highlight of the professional tour,” said Judit Farago, the chief executive and competitions executive director at the ITTF. “But this time both the motivation and the interest from the players was higher than usual with the attraction of competing in what will be an Olympic venue next year.”
From 3-4 December, ExCeL also hosted the London Prepares International Invitational Judo event, featuring male and female athletes from around the world, and the Taekwondo International Invitational, which featured 60 athletes from 18 countries.
“This significant competition has given us the unique opportunity to validate our current planning, crystallise operations and rehearse Game-time deliverables and everything here has gone very well,” said Luckes. “Moreover, we have been able to test parts of the venue and our technology solution, while it has been equally important for our invaluable sport-specific volunteers and workforce to gain the exposure and tangible experience of being involved at a major international event.”